“I just looked at my property assessment and it went way up, way more than what I think selling cost is,” someone wrote on a Facebook group this week. “So I assume taxes will jump again.”
And someone else:
“No way my house increased in value by $70,000 in the last year. This is a flat-out tax grab.”
No. And no.
Every year when assessments come out, some people complain about how it’s not fair they will have to pay more property taxes. Then I spend a few days trying to explain that property value has zero effect on property taxes, unless your property increases in value more than the average increase.
Last year, Chilliwack Realtor Kevin Schroeder posted an Instagram video explaining how property assessments affect property taxes.
I wrote a column about it one year ago, and because it is important and well explained by Schroeder, much of what follows is an edited version of that same column.
“Don’t panic,” he says. “Just because your property assessment increased it does not automatically mean that your taxes will increase. Here’s a short explanation on how the taxes are calculated.”
Schroeder starts with a tiny fictional B.C. municipality with a city budget of $65,000 and a property tax roll of $7 million, to keep it simple. (I know, these are very small numbers. Chip Wilson’s garage?)
How a municipality decides your property tax bill is by using a mill rate, a figure that represents the amount per $1,000 of the assessed value of the property. (“Mill” is derived from the Latin word for thousandth: millesimum.)
So, as Schroeder explains, the mill rate is calculated by dividing the budget by the tax roll and multiplying by 1,000. So in our tiny town’s case, 65,000 divided by 7,000,000 multiplied by 1,000, which equals 9.2857.
If a home in this village is worth $300,000 the taxes are that price times 9.2857 (2021 in Chilliwack), divided by 1,000, which equals $2,786.
If, again to keep the numbers simple, the total tax roll for our little community went up by 10 per cent this year, that means it would be $7.7 million. So if the city budget stays the same (I know, it never does but that’s not the point for this math) at $65,000, then we do 65,000 divided by 7,700,000 multiplied by 1,000, which equals 8.4415, our new mill rate.
If our theoretical home went up by that exact 10 per cent to $330,000, then we have 330,000 times 8.4415 divided by 1,000.
The answer? You guessed it, the same as the year before: $2,786.
Every year since 2016 when property values started to skyrocket up, and even before that, there was a lot of misunderstanding on social media about how property taxes are calculated. Hopefully this helps clarify and doesn’t in fact muddy the waters. I mean, math is hard.
There are also a couple of caveats to all of this.
Firstly, most properties in Chilliwack increased in value. In Schroeder’s theoretical example, the individual house went up by the exact amount as the entire property roll.
But if your property value increased by a percentage higher than the entire property roll, and even if city hall adopted the same budget as last year, your property tax bill would go up slightly because the property increased in value more than the city-wide increase. If it went down in assessed value compared to the average, your tax bill would go down.
And then the bad news. Inflation and discretionary changes to the city hall budget means we will see a property tax increase this year.
In fact, at city council’s meeting next Tuesday, they plan to give first and second reading to a budget with a proposed tax increase of 4.48 per cent in part for inflationary and non-discretionary reasons, but also to fund three additional RCMP members one RCMP support position, two additional firefighters and two bylaw enforcement officers “to address objectives in public safety.”
If you have something to say about that, you can tell the mayor and council at the meeting on Jan. 10.
Schroeder can be found on Instagram at @kevinschroederrealtor.
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